Thursday, March 29, 2012

On Cloud Nine

My husband and I went to the temple this morning to spiritually prepare for this weekend's General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  We also happened to have tickets tonight to a Jackie Evancho concert of "America's Got Talent" fame.  My husband had given me the tickets last December for our anniversary, and it just happened that the concert was a few days prior to this weekend's General Conference.  I'm on a spiritual high.  There is nothing like quiet time to ponder in the temple followed by listening to Jackie Evancho sing "The Lord's Prayer" (among other things).  What a way to prepare for General Conference!

I was so impressed by Miss Evancho's charm.  She is a totally unassuming, sweet, amazing young woman.  When she is singing, she is "in the zone," and has this huge adult voice.  Upon completion of a song, she drops her shoulders, flips her hair, and tugs at her shoulder straps like every other kid her age.  She has this tiny speaking voice on the microphone that was difficult to hear when she introduced the young man who is touring with her. At one point, she finished a song and said, "Well, I hope you enjoy intermission," and then left the stage.  She is just a little girl with a huge talent -- a God given talent.  I hope we hear good things from this young woman down the line.  I hope her parents keep her from getting a big head, and that as she grows into a teenager she isn't consumed by the evils that lurk around every corner of the industry because she has a gift.

If anyone in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is listening, Jackie Evancho would be an outstanding guest at a Mormon Tabernacle Concert or "Music and the Spoken Word."

I'm looking forward to General Conference this weekend, and I feel like I'm well prepared to feast on the words of the prophets.  I can hardly wait!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

This Is Why I Could Not Be An Attorney

As I type this, I'm listening to the oral argument in the United States Supreme Court regarding Obamacare.  I've spent a lifetime watching attorneys prepare for oral argument in many courts, including the United States Supreme Court.  They carefully draft their arguments, and tediously prepare their delivery of those arguments.  It is a really good thing that I'm not an attorney because if I spent that much time and effort to prepare, I would appreciate the Court at least giving me a chance to speak.

Mr. Clement is the attorney who is representing 26 states in this mess that is Obamacare litigation.  He has done a remarkable job! I must say that there is a reason I'm not an attorney.  If I were Mr. Clement, I would have thumbed my nose at the Justices and stormed out of the Court in frustration.  He was only a few seconds into his argument before the Justices began interrupting him, and not necessarily with questions, but with attacks.  I want to scream out sometimes, "If you shut up a second, he'll answer your question!"  At least the Justices seemed to be equally rude to opposing counsel, if that's any consolation.

It seems to me that the Justices have their own agenda, and that agenda is to convince their colleagues of their own positions; not to listen to oral arguments.  May I suggest that there is a time and a place for that, and that's not at oral argument?  Oral argument should be reserved (in my humble opinion) for the attorneys to give their final pitch to the Court, and for the Court to ask any questions or clarify any points in the attorneys' briefs.

I have incredible respect for these people, these wonderful attorneys who spend their lives feverishly defending the law and protecting the Constitution--for me.  They have incredible patience--patience with clients, patience with the public who really give them a bad rap, and patience with the Court (who sometimes get a little full of themselves).  Okay, as a layperson, I've said my peace.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Come Listen To A Prophet's Voice

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Humility has never been one of my strong points.  I take a lot of things for granted.  I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon).  We believe that Jesus Christ is the head of the Church, and through His guidance we are led by living prophets and apostles, just as the Church was led when Christ was on the earth.  As a kid, I used to watch LDS Conference on television (we only received one session on television in those days), and it never occurred to me how blessed I was to be listening to living prophets giving counsel.  The older I get, the more appreciation I have for that counsel.  What a marvelous opportunity it is to live on the earth at a time when we have living prophets!  Technology has advanced to the degree that we can live stream all sessions of conference, and have the videos to replay within hours.  The printed version is available later so that we can painstakingly study, highlight, and ponder the written word.

There is always so much to take into our hearts each conference that it is difficult to pick just one thing from the conference six months ago to share.  However, there is something that I've thought about often over the last six months.  The President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Thomas S. Monson, who we believe to be a prophet of God, said the following:
"We must be vigilant in a world which has moved so far from that which is spiritual.  It is essential that we reject anything that does not conform to our standards, refusing in the process to surrender that which we desire most:  eternal life in the kingdom of God.  The storms will still beat at our doors from time to time, for they are an inescapable part of our existence in mortality.  We, however, will be far better equipped to deal with them, to learn from them, and to overcome them if we have the gospel at our core and the love of the Savior in our hearts."  

President Monson goes on to counsel that if we want to be in the world but not of the world, it is important that we communicate with our Heavenly Father through prayer.  This is something that I've given much thought to over the past six months.  I struggle every day with things all around me that are inappropriate at best and outright vulgar at worst.  I recently wrote a blog post about part of this struggle here.  The one thing that I've been able to take comfort in is President Monson's counsel to communicate with my Heavenly Father.  Prayer has indeed been a great comfort to me and has helped me to muddle my way through the mud.

General Conference is coming our way again Saturday, March 31, 2012, and Sunday, April 1, 2012.  Conference can be viewed on cable and satellite systems, as well as live streamed here:  As usual, I'm starved to hear the word of the Lord through our living prophets and apostles, as well as others who sought for inspiration in preparing for this conference. I pray that I'll be in tune with the Spirit and hear the message that my Heavenly Father wishes me to hear.

I hope you will join with me in hearing the counsel of the Lord.

Friday, March 23, 2012

What's In A Number?

Picture from here:

Ever since I received my first paycheck as a kid, I've always loved to caress it in my hands for a few minutes before writing the deposit slip and putting it in the bank.  All the years that I worked, there was something rewarding about that little piece of paper.  It was more than the money it represented; it was a tangible reward for hard work.  In recent years, I bucked the system as employers encouraged direct deposit.  There are so few rewards in the work place that I just refused to relinquish holding that check, even if it was only for a few minutes.

Danny paid into Social Security his entire life.  We were recently informed that in a few months direct deposit will be required in order to receive his Social Security check.  Aside from the fact that I believe Danny should have the right to decide how he receives his Social Security, does anyone besides me see the stupidity in relinquishing your bank information to the government?

We've all watched Big Brother become increasingly entangled in every aspect of our lives.  There are cameras at stop lights, TSA agents who pat down little children, and our social media exchanges are monitored.  Our backyards are monitored by satellite equipment.  There is absolutely no such thing as personal privacy anymore.  On some level, I understand that the world is becoming an increasingly dangerous place to live and that some of these things might be necessary.  At what point do we draw the line?  Some of us are no longer convinced that the government is still the good guy with the white hat.  (For my younger readers, the old westerns on television and in the movies always had a hero who wore a white hat, and a villain who wore a black hat.)

I suppose we have no choice but to surrender our bank information to the government because we need my husband's Social Security check, but I don't have to like it, and I don't have to be quiet about it.  I find this to be an incredulous breach of individual freedom.  What ever happened to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?  My "life" is my own business--and that's called "liberty."  My bank account pretty much is my life since it pays for my "pursuit of happiness."  Our government is supposed to be by the people, of the people, and for the people.  A government that requires my bank information is not a government for the people.  Our government has crossed the line--again.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What Happened to Customer Service?

Times are tough these days, and I understand the need for merchants to cut costs.  The trend seems to be to cut customer service and replace human help with self-checkout and automation.  May I suggest that a little customer service goes a long way to keep customers?

Prices for goods and services are rising at an alarming rate, yet the consumer is often left bagging his own groceries, punching computer buttons, and doing her own banking.  Why are we not objecting to this?  I think it began many years ago at the gas pump.  Admittedly, I'm old enough to remember driving into a gas station, rolling down the window, and saying "fill 'er up."  In addition to the full tank, windows were washed all the way around, and oil was checked.  Americans accepted the idea of pumping our own gasoline as a novel idea a long time ago when gasoline was under $1.00 a gallon.  May I suggest that if I'm now going to pay $4.27 (or more) for gasoline, that possibly a little customer service might be in order?

When ATM machines first came on board, we were promised that we would never pay a fee for using that machine?  I said hogwash.  How many of you are paying a half dollar now and then to use an ATM?

When I first moved to Sacramento in 1973, I set up a checking account and a savings account at Bank of America.  I married my husband in 1976, and he also had his accounts at Bank of America, so we just closed out our separate accounts and began joint accounts there.  At some point Bank of America actually began charging us for the "privilege" of having a savings account  -- at which time we closed that savings account.  Last year they informed us that our Christmas Club account would be permanently closed.  There's customer service for you!  After all these years, I would think that I could walk into the bank and do my banking without being personally attacked by every single teller about the fact that I don't use the ATM machine, and that I don't have a Versateller card.  I shouldn't have to get nasty to get customer service.  If you want me to continue to do my banking in your bank, then provide me with customer service!

Over the years, my family has spent thousands of dollars on groceries at Raley's.  We shopped at less expensive stores when my children were small and the budget was tight.  Stores moved in and out of our area, and at some point after I went back to work full-time, we decided that good fresh vegetables and decent meat at a conveniently located Raley's was worth paying the extra price (although we certainly watch for bargains elsewhere).  Recently, Raley's has begun moving to "self-checkout."  I'm sorry, but if you want me to continue to pay big bucks for good quality fruits, veggies, and meat, then you darned well better provide the customer service to go with it!

Consumers:  We are in a recession.  I suggest that this might be the perfect time to demand better customer service for your dollar.  If they want your money, let them work for it.  Begin doing business with those companies that really want your business.  If they want your business, they will provide that customer service  -- but not until we speak up.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Have Things Really Changed for Women?

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I had a discussion on social media this morning that was generated by this quote:
"I, myself, have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is.  I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a door mat or a prostitute."
-- Rebecca West

The discussion was whether women have really moved forward, or whether we move forward and backward simultaneously.  It was pointed out to me that children growing up today see women on television accomplishing everything under the sun, and they assume they can too, and that it has always been that way.  One of the women told me that she feels that we aren't telling the story of the struggle for women's rights.

I have to admit that this discussion was an eyeopener for me.  I know that I've talked about the struggle with my own kids (at least my daughters), but I wonder if they really understand.  Will life for my granddaughters move forward or backward?  Who will be their role models?  Will they stand up and be counted?  Will the term "feminist" be something they are proud of, or something they are ashamed to admit is part of who they are?

My oldest daughter is an aeronautical engineer who has helped design and launch satellites.  My second daughter has two degrees and a good government job.  My third daughter is currently on an LDS mission in Brazil, but a year from now will be coming home to finish her education and pursue a career in her chosen field.  Will my granddaughters be afforded experiences equal to their expectations in life?

For the benefit of my granddaughters (who will someday be old enough to read this), I'm going to tell my own story below -- but I don't want my grandsons to tune out -- because you are part of the story -- you need to be aware, as well.  You need to treat your female counterparts as your equals.

I grew up in a time when women were encouraged to be secretaries and nurses.  Period.  Yes, there were some women who held other jobs, but it was certainly not encouraged.  They struggled to get those positions, and they fought hard to keep them.  After they received those positions, they fought for their reputations because it was assumed that the only way they could possibly have gotten those jobs is by sleeping with the boss. They were not paid the same amount their male counterparts were paid (and often still are not).  Girls were often not encouraged to go to college, nor were they encouraged to take college prep classes in high school.  There were certain "male only" classes in high school. My father fought with the school when my older sister wanted to take mechanical engineering, as it was considered a "male only" class.

While there is still sexual harassment in the work place, at least it is talked about and discouraged these days. Most large companies have some sort of sexual harassment training, and sexual harassment policy.  I was 17 years old working in the bakery of our local grocery store when the baker backed me in a corner against the wall and I couldn't move.  The only recourse I had was to hit the street looking for another job.  If I had told my employer, they wouldn't have believed me, and if I had told my father, he would likely have killed the baker.  I had no other choice but to leave and find other work.

My mother was a strong willed feminist, although she would not have used that label.  During World War II, she was Deputy County Clerk in Carson City, Nevada.  She issued everything from dog licenses to marriage licenses.  She took court testimony in shorthand.  She was present for marriages and divorces.  At the end of the war, women were expected to leave those positions, go home, have babies and do diapers to leave those jobs open for returning servicemen.  She did just that.  She was my father's unpaid secretary for many years.  When he got sick and could no longer work, she found herself on the street looking for a job with no "experience" except to say that she was my father's unpaid secretary.  Mom was a fighter, and she found employment as the office manager at an Episcopal church.  The priest hired her because his only requirement was that she not be a member of the church so she wouldn't be involved in church politics.  Mom had never used anything but a manual typewriter, but saw the advent of the computer and took the opportunity and ran with it. I'm ashamed to say that Mom learned computer technology before I did.

My father was a conundrum.  He wanted his children (male and female) to have all the opportunities we wanted, yet he was often baffled by our choices.  As I said above, he went to bat for my sister when she wanted to take a "male" class.  However, he discouraged me from becoming a writer because it wasn't "a dignified enough profession for a lady."  If I had pushed on that one, I'm sure he would have supported me, but I never pushed back where Dad was concerned.  I became a legal secretary.

When I was in business college, times were really tough.  We were in the midst of a recession and an energy crises.  Lines were long at the gas pump, and girls I knew at business college were pumping gas for good money.  I made the mistake of suggesting that I do this, and Dad hit the roof!  No daughter of his was ever going to pump gas!  So I took a job for a lot less pay filing billings at an insurance company -- and almost starved to death for the next several months.  I needed to lose weight anyway, but that was a hard way to do it!

When I first became a legal secretary, there were almost no female attorneys.  Those few women attorneys had to be tough! They were fighting a constant uphill battle to be taken seriously by clients, other attorneys, and the court.  Women are now thriving as attorneys, running Bar Associations, and becoming respected judges and justices.

What I Want My Grandchildren to Remember:
Heavenly Father put us all on the earth together.  He put us here to love one another and help one another.  We are equal partners in all things.  We need each other -- the male and the female.

My granddaughters:  Take pride in yourselves and in your bodies. Realize you are daughters of God.  You are of royal birth.  You don't have to be door mats.  Stand up and be counted, but treat men with the respect they deserve.

My grandsons:  Take pride in yourselves and in your bodies. Realize you are sons of God.  You are of royal birth.  You are not here to stomp on women.  You can do nothing Godly without your counterpart.  Treat women with the respect they deserve.

It's all about respect, people.  What legacy will we leave?

Note:  Thank you Carole Riley, Tessa Keough, and Celia Lewis for opening my eyes this morning, and for Denise Morgan Kalicki for originally sharing the quote by Rebecca West.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Day to Rejoice

Today is International Women's Day.  I usually just check off days like this just like any other day.  Yes, women have come a long way -- especially in the last 100 years -- but we have a long way to go.

This afternoon I saw this day in a different light.  I saw it as a day to rejoice.  My phone rang this morning, and my daughter asked me to babysit this afternoon.  She is pregnant with her third child and had a doctor's appointment this afternoon.  Her husband wanted to go with her to drive because she is having Braxton Hicks contractions, or what we used to call in my day, false labor. With or without the fancy name, it stinks, and it's miserable.

Grandpa and I played with the grand kids and fed them dinner.  My daughter looked absolutely miserable when they picked up the kids a few minutes ago.  I was hoping she was on her way home to go to bed, but she is actually on her way to a church meeting.  She is Primary President (head of the organization for the children -- think Sunday School) for our LDS congregation, and there is a presidency meeting tonight.  She doesn't want to cancel it because there are things that need to be handled before her baby is born, and she has given birth early the last two times, so she wants to be prepared.  As much as I wanted to hog tie her to a bed to get some rest, I knew that she is doing what she thinks is best for the children at church.  She has a responsibility to them which she takes seriously.

Women all over the world put themselves last.  We are the nurturers.  We take care of everyone else first -- to the detriment of our own health sometimes.  As worried as I am for my lovely daughter who will soon have three children under age three, I admire her and my other daughters for being nurturers.  My daughters are wonderful examples of what women should strive to be -- caring, loving servants to humanity.

So instead of just marking off one more day on the calendar today, I will celebrate in my heart International Women's Day.  I will celebrate it in honor of all those strong women who have gone before me, and those who will come after me.  Thank you all for being my example.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Moving Line of Appropriateness

Recently I listened to a speaker in a church meeting (LDS Stake Conference) talk about the moving line of appropriate versus inappropriate viewing of media. This is something I've been concerned about for some time.  It used to be that you could avoid inappropriateness by not viewing "R" rated movies.  Now even PG-13 movies often have inappropriate dialog.  Television is a plethora of violence, vulgarity, and inappropriate use of the Lord's name.  Social media is rampant with vulgarity.

There is a terrible dilemma for those of us who want to be part of social media.  We are encouraged by leaders of the church to be involved in social media.  There is a ton of missionary work that is being done via social media, and I've been proud to play a tiny role in that effort the last few years.  In the process, we open ourselves up to viewing things we don't want to see, and reading words we don't want to read.  It is difficult to know where to draw the line.

My standard procedure with inappropriateness via social media has been to ignore it the first time (anyone can have a bad day), gently warn the person the second time, and uncircle, unfollow, and/or hide friendship the third time.  I'm sad about that.  If I were to have followed my own guidelines recently, I would have cut off contact with someone, but for some strange reason, I didn't follow those guidelines.  Last week I had a missionary experience with the offender.  So it brings the question to my mind again, "Where do I draw the line?"

I can testify to the fact that reading inappropriate words via social media does have an affect on you.  I was sound asleep the other night, and I woke up with a start because in my dream I was yelling at someone and used the most vulgar of words--in my sleep.

If you thought this blog post was going to give you answers as to where to draw the line, you were mistaken.  I don't know the answer.  It is something that I'm going to have to pray about earnestly.  On-line missionary work is very important, and it is very effective--but at what cost?  We have all talked about the moral decay of society and the importance of getting it back on track. How do we do that if we are not willing to roll up our sleeves and get dirty working in the trenches?  If we are willing to walk through the sewer, how do we keep ourselves spotless before the Lord?

I would welcome any suggestions you might have, or any comments, as I study this out in my mind and pray about it.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Time for Healing

Colin E. Lamb  
Picture from here:

This has been a week of healing.  The gentleman above was my husband's best friend.  He was killed in Vietnam in 1968.  When I met my husband, I knew there was a portion of his heart that I couldn't have, and that was reserved for Colin.  I have tread lightly on the subject for the entire 35 years of our marriage. Each time we are in Idaho, we visit Colin's grave.  Colin's mother died before I met my husband, but several times we went to visit his Dad, and later his Dad and his second wife.  We would always have a nice visit, and  when we would leave, there would be tears.  Colin is now reunited with his parents, and the sweet stepmother he didn't know here on earth.

My son's middle name is Colin, and that had a healing quality for my husband.  This week, however, came much bigger healing. Yesterday and today, we did some temple work for Colin and his family.  Early next week, we will seal Colin to his parents and brother for time and all eternity.

Two wonderful things happened today with respect to this temple work.  First, I had my own little epiphany.  I have always felt sad for women who don't have the opportunity to marry in this life, and I frankly become irritated when I hear people say they'll have the opportunity in the next life.  As I sat in the temple today doing work for Colin's mother, I thought about the thousands and thousands of young soldiers like Colin who never had the opportunity to marry before their earthly lives were cut short.  I had such peace when I realized that there will be someone free for him.

On the drive home from the temple, my husband told me a story. I don't think he's ever told me this before, but it is possible that I have just forgotten.  Danny doesn't talk much about Colin because his heart is too tender.  He spent a good deal of time blaming himself because he's alive and Colin is dead.  Danny was sent to Japan and later home because of a rare eye disease called kerataconis.  Colin was sent to Vietnam.  Today, though, he spoke about Colin with no tears whatsoever.  I was fascinated by what I heard.

Colin was in ROTC at Texas A&M University.  Upon graduation he planned to enlist in the military, but before he had a chance, another young man reported Colin to the draft board.  The young man was sweet on the girl that Colin was planning to marry, and he wanted to get Colin out of the way.  The young woman wanted to marry Colin before he left, but Colin said he wouldn't marry her until he came back.  Colin never came back.

Obviously, I never met Colin.  Indeed, I was 14 years old when Colin died in 1968, and I didn't marry my husband until the end of 1976, but I feel like I know him.  I've never heard one bad thing about him from anyone who knew him.  As I sit here today, thinking about a few special women I know who have never been married, I can't help wondering who will someday be blessed with Colin.

I'm excited to do the sealings next week.  I'm happy for Colin's family, but also for Danny.  After all this time, maybe he can now have a little peace.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Chuck Steaks and Chicken Pieces

Grocery shopping was on the agenda today.  I  had to laugh at myself.  I am certainly my father's daughter!

When I die and see Dad again, the first thing I'm going to do is thank him for showing me how to shop, how to cut up a chicken, and how to buy chuck roast and cut it into chuck steaks.  Those three things alone have saved me thousands of dollars over the years.  For the life of me, I can't figure out why anyone would pay the butcher to cut up a chicken!  It is almost always less expensive--by far--to cut that chicken up yourself.  Need to eat healthy?  Take the skin off yourself.  It's just soooo not hard!

I unpacked the groceries today, setting the meat on the counter while I put the canned goods in the pantry.  When the pantry items were put away, I turned to the meat.  In 10 minutes--yes, only 10 minutes--I split a 3-pound package of ground beef into three 1-pound zip lock packages (it was less expensive to buy the larger package), cut up a chicken putting several pieces in zip lock bags (it's just the two of us now, and we can't eat a whole chicken in one sitting), and split a chuck roast into two chuck steaks.  Each zip lock bag was then labeled, dated, and frozen. TEN MINUTES!  Why on earth would I pay the butcher to do that for me??  It's such a simple thing.

Then there is the trust exercise.  Cutting the chuck roast into chuck steaks is easier with two people--and it builds trust.  From the time my children could reach the cutting board, they learned to press their little hands flat and tight against the chuck roast that was standing vertical instead of horizontal between their hands.  As I gently cut the roast down the middle between their hands, they learned that Mom indeed could be trusted.  I did it for my Dad when I was a kid, and I learned to trust him too.  Even my husband trusts me--well, sort of. No he does.  Really!

The second thing I'm going to ask Dad in heaven:  What in the heck did you put in the meat spread to make it taste so good? Dad would take all the little pieces of leftover meat hanging out in the refrigerator, put it through the meat grinder, add "stuff" to it, spread it between two pieces of bread, and it was to die for! Hey, siblings, if Dad ever showed you what he put in that meat, cough up the recipe NOW!  I've tried and tried, and I can't make it taste like Dad's meat spread.